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New Foundational Skills in Middle and High Schools – The educational opportunity gap is large and grows larger the more teachers value them

Labor market data and previously reported research confirm that the skills required of the modern workforce have changed. The New Foundational Skills of the modern economy include greater digital savvy, increased business acumen, and more versatile human and team- centered workplace competencies. These skills generate substantial salary premiums for the students and workers who master them, and demand for these skills is large and growing at all levels of educational attainment.

Middle and high schools that embrace these skills will be setting their students up for future success. However, the nature and prevalence of education in these New Foundational Skills during middle and high school is unclear. In this report, American Student Assistance and Burning Glass Technologies present the view from the schoolhouse: What is the value that students can gain from mastering these New Foundational Skills, how do educators understand the value to students that these skills offer, and how do educators feel about the quality of education in these skills that their schools provide.

The report finds the following:

1. Students in middle and high school benefit from mastering the New Foundational Skills whether they continue to postsecondary education or enter the labor market.

Nearly two-thirds (62%) of job postings last year asked for New Foundational Skills, up from just over half (53%) in 2017. The digital and business skills offer salary premiums ranging from 7% to 38%, depending on the skill. Digital skills offered insulation from the conomic downturn due to COVID-19. Finally, New Foundational Skills are the building blocks upon which postsecondary institutions instruct other career-oriented skills.

2. Educators recognize the value of the New Foundational Skills and want these skills taught in their schools.

For each category—human and team-centered workplace competencies, digital building blocks, and business-enabler skills—more than half of educators believe employers will regard these skills as “essential” by the time their students are looking for a job. Educators in both middle and high school are in agreement about the value of these skills, and educators at both levels want these skills to be taught in the classroom. School administrators cite the value of the New Foundational Skills to students particularly highly. Educators of majority black or African American students also value these skills more highly than their counterparts teaching mostly white students. In a follow-up survey after the onset of COVID-19, educators said they now value the New Foundational Skills even more than before the pandemic. For example, fully 94% of educators say that COVID-19 has increased the need to teach digital skills.

3. Educators do not think the New Foundational Skills are being taught adequately.

The educational opportunity gap—the difference between the percent of educators who value the skill as essential and the percent who believe the skills are being taught well—is large for all of the New Foundational Skills and grows larger the more teachers value the skill. Further, the opportunity gaps are not distributed equally among students. The gaps are often twice as large for students in majority black or African American classrooms and more than 50% as large for students in majority Latinx classrooms relative to majority white classrooms. The gaps are twice to four times as large for classrooms where 75% or more of students receive free or reduced lunch compared to classrooms where no more than 25% are program recipients.

4. Educators do believe that they can incorporate the New Foundational Skills into their classroom.

Two-thirds of teachers and nearly nine-in- ten school counselors and administrators say they feel they could personally take steps to increase the teaching of these skills in their schools and classrooms. Further,nearly nine-in-ten educators (88%) believe that career exploration and experiential learning are productive avenues to better teach these skills.

The report concludes with recommendations to educators, policymakers, and other stakeholders. In an effort to provide some initial ideas to middle and high school educators about their options, the report provides a map of skills and the sequence in which they should be taught in future curricula based on the principle that skills most widely applicable across the workforce be taught first. Integrating these skills into middle and high school curricula will require developing frameworks at the executive level of schools, municipalities, states, and nationally. These frameworks will include traditional testing, metrics and benchmarks for learning outcomes, and professional development goals for teachers and administrators, as well as creative forms of education such as career exploration days
in middle school and experiential learning through internships, apprenticeships, college and employer site visits, and industry days in high school. These interventions should be implanted in a targeted way to close gaps in access and outcomes along racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic lines.

The foundational nature of what Burning Glass terms the New Foundational Skills initially referred to centrality of these skills in the modern economy. In order for the students of today to thrive in the workforce of tomorrow, preparation in these skills should be foundational to education, too. Middle and high school educators see the value of these skills to their students, and they need institutional support to enable them to enact the curricular and pedagogical changes that will set their students up for success.

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story @ The View from the Schoolhouse


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